District of Columbia lawmakers ban public pot smoking

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District of Columbia Votes to Ban Cannabis Use in Public


WASHINGTON, April 5 (Reuters) - Smoking marijuana in public or in clubs was banned permanently on Tuesday by the District of Columbia's city council, reversing course for a second time.

Council members in the U.S. capital voted 7-6 to approve the measure, a spokeswoman for Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said. A second vote will be needed to finalize it.

Two months ago, the council voted unanimously to create a task force to study the licensing of marijuana clubs and ending the ban on public consumption of pot.

A law that took effect in February 2015 allows adults to possess small amounts of marijuana and grow and consume it at home. The District bans the sale of marijuana, but public smoking has become common as arrests have dried up.

A council spokesman was not immediately available to comment on the vote.

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District of Columbia lawmakers ban public pot smoking
The dispensary area at Columbia Care, one of New York City's first medicinal marijuana dispensaries, is seen, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, in New York. New Yorkers with cancer, AIDS, Parkinson's disease or other qualifying conditions will be able to obtain medical marijuana as early as Thursday, 18 months after lawmakers passed what is considered one of the strictest medical cannabis programs in the nation. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
In this Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015 photo, cookbooks for use with marijuana are available inside of Salveo Health and Wellness, a licensed medical cannabis dispensary, in Canton, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
A sample of cannabis is shown in a sniffer at Shango Premium Cannabis, in Portland , Ore., Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. Oregon marijuana stores have begun sales to recreational users, marking a big day for the budding pot industry in the state. Some of the more than 250 dispensaries in Oregon that already offer medical marijuana opened their doors early Thursday to begin selling the drug just moments after it became legal to do so. (AP Photo/Timothy J. Gonzalez)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 07: A man leaves Columbia Care, the first medical marijuana dispensary in New York City on January 7, 2016 in New York City. The law allowing medical marijuana was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014; the law stipulates that the legal marijuana may not be ingested by smoking it. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Corey Young, a founder of courier service CannaRabbit LLC, picks up a delivery of marijuana from a dispensary as part of a wholesale transfer in Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Friday, March 27, 2015. CannaRabbit and peers are rushing in as regional truckers and nationwide haulers United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. steer clear of transporting marijuana on concerns over the lack of nationwide clearance of a practice that is still illegal in most states. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 8: Takoma Wellness Center is a family run medical marijuana dispensary in Washington, DC. Employee, David Malpica, sets up the dispensary room before business hours on Sunday, March 8, 2015. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Marijuana sits on a counter after being delivered to a dispensary by the courier service CannaRabbit LLC in Louisville, Colorado, U.S., on Friday, March 27, 2015. CannaRabbit and peers are rushing in as regional truckers and nationwide haulers United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. steer clear of transporting marijuana on concerns over the lack of nationwide clearance of a practice that is still illegal in most states. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
LOS ANGELES, CA JULY 05, 2014 --- Shoppers lined up at one of many pot vendors stall at cannabis farmers market organized by California Heritage Market at West Coast Collective, a marijuana dispensary in Boyle Heights. (Photo by Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Vendors and growers prepare their displays for card-carrying medical marijuana patients attending Los Angeles' first-ever cannabis farmer's market at the West Coast Collective medical marijuana dispensary, on the fourth of July, or Independence Day, in Los Angeles, California on July 4, 2014 where organizer's of the 3-day event plan to showcase high quality cannabis from growers and vendors throughout the state. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Containers of the medical marijuana product known as 'Wax' are displayed at Los Angeles' first-ever cannabis farmer's market at the West Coast Collective medical marijuana dispensary, on the fourth of July, or Independence Day, in Los Angeles, California on July 4, 2014 where organizer's of the 3-day event plan to showcase high quality cannabis from growers and vendors throughout the state. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Customers wait in line early in the morning at Amazon Organics, a pot dispensary in Eugene, Ore., to purchase recreational marijuana on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. Oregon marijuana shops began selling marijuana Thursday for the first time to recreational users who are at least 21 years old, marking a big day for the budding pot industry. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang)
In this Oct. 20, 2015 photo, Shamay Flaharty, of Lewiston, Ill., who has multiple sclerosis and is hoping cannabis will help ease her pain and headaches, leaves with Eric Sweatt, partner and manager of Salveo Health and Wellness, a licensed medical cannabis dispensary, in Canton, Ill. Illinois will begin its first medical marijuana sales within the next two weeks. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
In this Wednesday, July 29, 2015 photo A.J. Lessa, of Cumberland, R.I., a patient advisor at the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center, arranges marijuana products in a display case at the center in Providence, R.I. Rhode Island officials say revenues from taxing and regulating medical marijuana have been lower than projected in the two years that dispensaries have been legal. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
This photo taken March 28, 2014 shows Cherry City Compassion, a medical marijuana store in Salem, Ore. Until now, medical pot shops have operated in a gray area. That's changed under a law passed last year that legalizes medical marijuana dispensaries so long as they apply for and are granted a license. (AP Photo/Chad Garland)
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Tuesday's vote was the second turnaround by the council. Lawmakers voted this year to let the ban expire but then reversed themselves under pressure from Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Besides the District of Columbia, the states of Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska have made pot lawful for recreational use. It remains illegal under federal law.

Kate Bell, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, an advocacy group, said the task force should have been allowed to do its job.

"We are very disappointed that the council voted to permanently impose this unnecessary ban on the freedoms that the vast majority of the voters support," she said in a statement. (Reporting by Ian Simpson; editing by Grant McCool)

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